Thursday, October 20, 2022

Little/Few: Little Eva


When she was fifteen years old, Eva Boyd moved from North Carolina to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, and worked as a maid and occasional babysitter. We’d probably never have heard of Boyd if it weren’t for two important facts. First, she had a great voice, and second, the couple she babysat for was Carole King and Gerry Goffin. 

There’s a story that King and Goffin wrote “The Loco-Motion” for Boyd because they liked her dancing style, but that’s supposedly apocryphal. In fact, they originally wrote the song to capitalize on the craze for “dance songs” for Dee Dee Sharp, who’d had a dance song hit with “Mashed Potato Time,” but she declined. Boyd had sung the demo version, and when Sharp passed, they returned to Boyd, and the record was released in 1962 under Boyd’s nickname, “Little Eva,” on Don Kirshner’s Dimension Records. Because there was no existing “Loco-Motion” dance, Little Eva had to create one. You can see her, to some degree, and the background dancers, to a greater degree, doing the dance in the video, which was recorded in 1965 on the TV show Shindig!, and is the only video of her singing the song (although I’m pretty sure she’s lip synching). 

“The Loco-Motion” became a big hit—hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and ending the year as the No. 7 biggest song of 1962. It later charted in other countries again in the 70’s and 80’s. There’s another story that Eva was only paid $50 for the song, but since she didn’t own it, it is likely that $50 was her weekly salary, which was at least 3 times what she was making from babysitting. Goffin and King mined Boyd’s troubled personal life for the song, "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss),” a creepy song about abuse recorded by The Crystals, which I wrote a little about here (scroll down...), but is best mostly forgotten. 

After her success with “The Loco-Motion,” Boyd was stereotyped as a “dance song” artist, and had trouble getting good material, despite her talent and close ties to the Goffin/King family, although another of her dance song, “Let’s Turkey Trot,” gets dusted off every year for Thanksgiving (as does “Mashed Potato Time,” for that matter) and she was able to tour during the 1960s. She retired from music in 1971, basically penniless. Until a hit cover of the song by Kylie Minogue in 1988 (which Boyd said she didn’t like) raised her profile enough to hit the oldies circuit. Boyd was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2001 and she died in 2003.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


Who can forget it, the snarl and the spat out words, as the youthful Elvis Costello gave his commentary on right wing political ideology. Or sort of, in an idiosyncratically dense flurry of words, encompassing swastikas, violence and dodgy home videos, held together by references to a Mr Oswald. Who I always felt was a reference to one Oswald Mosley, the pre WW2 leader of the British Fascists, admirer and apologist for Hitler, with aims of occupying a similar place in the worldwide pantheon of bad dictators. Remember him? From Peaky Blinders?

But, but, but, across the pond, Mosley and his band of brothers, the brownshirts, cut very little memory mustard, with the only Oswald coming to anyone’s mind being the Lee Harvey one. And therein lies a tale I didn’t know.

Elvis Costello, ever the contrarian, having written his song, didn’t seem to like the discovery that none of his American fans knew not what he was on about. Or the assumption it was about someone else. So he rewrote it; the so-called ‘Dallas version’, with lyrics that might just have more to do with the US events, drawing archly oblique reference to presidents and a smoking gun. (Being the lover of wordplay he is, is that also there a veiled reference to Jack Ruby?)
In my research I found this rather more detailed discussion, well worth a link.

Bret Easton Ellis so liked the song, although which version is not alluded to, that he named his debut novel thereafter. I haven’t read it, or indeed seen the subsequent film. I think American Psycho is probably as much Ellis as I want or need, but I thought the soundtrack worth a look. And whilst it doesn’t include the song, it does include a motley variety of artists covering other artists songs, in the way soundtracks often do. Maybe cheaper than licensing the original, I wonder, but often unearthing covers of the utmost oddness and charm, and so of interest to me. Like metal band Slayer covering In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. (It also, by the way, debuted the Bangles’ version of Hazy Shade of Winter, a song that had life outside the film, and thus became a hit.

Live (London) or live (Dallas)?